Many brain experts state that isolation and loneliness is becoming the fastest killer of our humanity.
I 100% agree.
As human beings, our minds are greatly affected by two opposing hormones: cortisol (the stress hormone) and oxytocin (the love hormone). These hormones are released in our brains in reaction to various stimuli.
Threatening or upsetting stimuli, for instance, causes our brains to release cortisol. This sudden increase in cortisol, as well as adrenalin, is tied to our primal fight, flight or freeze response. These stress hormones were necessary for our ancestors to fight off an attack or flee from a dangerous situation.
However, when we read an alarming bit of news on our computers, we neither fight nor take flight. So we are left frozen in a state of hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal. Our blood pressure goes up, our hearts race, our immune systems begin to shut down, increased gastric acid can lead to acid reflux or nausea. That fiery lump of nauseous anxiety I was feeling during the election cycle, THAT was cortisol.
The long-term health consequences of elevated cortisol can be dire.
Luckily, there is an antidote to the stress hormone, and that is oxytocin! Often referred to as the “love hormone,” “trust hormone,” or “empathy hormone,” oxytocin is released in response to comforting stimuli. This hormone is essential in developing connections with others.
According to studies, “Oxytocin can induce anti-stress-like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels.” Additionally, oxytocin stimulates “positive social interaction” and promotes both physical and psychological well-being. That feeling of kindness, openness and connection is oxytocin.
Human touch has a powerful effect on our brains. When the pressure receptors, known as “Pacinian corpuscles,” beneath our skin are stimulated, they send a signal to the vagus nerve in our brains.
The vagus nerve slows down the heart, decreases blood pressure and reduces stress.
Walking outdoors is statistically correlated with higher levels of oxytocin. The combination of light exercise and sunshine does our brains good. Furthermore, the act of walking bonds us to the people we are walking with. Marching alongside friends and strangers alike would have contributed to us feeling closer and more connected to them.
Laughter triggers the brain to release oxytocin.
Studies show that suppressing emotions leads to lower levels of oxytocin. When we hold back our feelings, we create more stress in our bodies and minds. Expressing pent up feelings, such as sadness, anger and frustration, in a healthy way can be a powerful stress-buster.
Kindness and Generosity
Acts of kindness and generosity create feelings of emotional warmth within us that are linked to an increase in oxytocin.
According to British psychotherapist, Jonathan Hoban, “Oxytocin plays a pivotal role in the process of reconnecting, rebuilding trust and feeling safe.
If we all took certain daily actions that encouraged the production of oxytocin within ourselves and others, we would see divisive behavior and fear lessen within our society.
Here are some of Jonathan Hoban’s suggestions for ways to increase the flow of oxytocin on a daily basis:
Take action for more love in your life by writing down 3 key action steps each day to turn up your OXYTOCIN! Share them in the show notes!